Week 1 overreactions and hot takes: The Big Ten is awesome and USC is overrated

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There is still some college football to be played, but the bulk of college football’s first weekend is in the books. Now it’s time to take a look at some of the hot takes and overreactions you may come across in the coming days. Which ones are fair, and which ones should you avoid? Here is a look at five that will get some attention.

The Big Ten is the best conference in college football

The Big Ten just turned in an impressive 10-2 mark for the opening weekend, not including Ohio State’s victory over Indiana in conference play Thursday night. Highlighting that win total was Michigan’s defensive performance against Florida in Arlington, but top 10 teams Wisconsin and Penn State also turned in decisive blowout victories against inferior opponents as well. Maryland spoiled Tom Herman‘s coaching debut against a low Top 25 Texas squad, and even Purdue and Rutgers managed to hang with Louisville and Washington, respectively, before turning in the only two blemishes on the Big Ten schedule in Week 1. All things considered, it was a very good week for the Big Ten.

But now let’s see what happens in Week 2 with some notable games against the Big 12 (Ohio State vs. Oklahoma, Iowa State vs. Iowa), Pac-12 (Oregon vs. Nebraska, Oregon State vs. Minnesota), and the ACC (Penn State vs. Pitt, Duke vs. Northwestern). An equally successful Week 2 would go a long way to support the Big Ten’s strength of schedule argument. A rough week would negate the production of Week 1.

It’s still Alabama and everybody else in the SEC

This may still be true. Alabama’s win over Florida State certainly made it seem like that on the same day that saw Florida dismantled by Michigan. But LSU turned in a good showing against BYU in New Orleans, as did Auburn at home against Georgia Southern. And Georgia put to rest any idea about an Appalachian State upset bid rather solidly with Jake Fromm stepping in at quarterback. The SEC still has two more games to play with Texas A&M visiting UCLA tonight and Tennessee taking on Georgia Tech in Atlanta tomorrow. With a handful of victories over the FCS, one of which needed Missouri to put up over 50 points to win, it is still a tad early to suggest the SEC overall had a great weekend despite an 11-1 mark so far. Alabama, yes. The rest of the SEC? We’ll see how the next 48 hours go.

The U is back!

No, not yet, although Miami starting the year with a 41-13 victory over an FCS foe in Bethune-Cookman did nothing to suggest we should dismiss the idea already. Miami heads to Arkansas State, who just pushed Nebraska to the limit last night. I’ll be careful about placing the Hurricanes on upset alert after doing so a year ago against Appalachian State blew up in my face. Florida State in two weeks remains the litmus test.

USC is overrated

Despite turning it on in the fourth quarter like the Trojans were back in the Rose Bowl against Penn State, USC had a difficult time with Western Michigan in the Los Angeles Coliseum on Saturday. We’ll see how the pollsters weigh in on the Trojans, who started the year No. 4 in the preseason AP Top 25. With Sam Darnold being picked off twice and the Trojans having trouble getting going, perhaps USC is not quite as mighty as anticipated. Stanford comes to town next week. Let’s see if the Trojans iron out a few things with the Cardinal coming in rested from their trip to Australia a week ago.

The American Athletic Conference is far from a power conference

This much we already knew despite the conference’s PR push to be considered a power conference. TEams are even taking the field with a Power 6 flag and the conference’s P6 logo is on the goal posts this season. But the conference just went 8-3 this weekend. Wait, that actually sounds pretty good. Take away the wins against FCS opponents (one of which needed a fourth quarter rally by UConn against lowly Holy Cross) and the conference went just 3-3, with one of those losses coming at home against the top-ranked FCS program in the nation (James Madison beating East Carolina) by a 20-point margin.

Defending champ Temple was soundly defeated by Notre Dame by 33 points. Preseason favorite South Florida needed a second half burst to get by Stony Brook. At least Navy, Memphis, and UCF looked good this weekend though.

At least the Mountain West Conference had an equally shaky Week 1, if not worse. Colorado State and Wyoming combined for six points. Utah State was blasted by Wisconsin. Boise State held off Troy. UNLV surrendered the biggest upset in college football history.

Boise State dominating but two defensive touchdowns keeping Oregon in Vegas Bowl

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The first half of Mario Cristobal‘s Oregon debut has been one to forget. A Ducks offense that averaged north of 50 points a game with starting quarterback Justin Hebert running point has been held scoreless as No. 25 Boise State holds a most unconventional 24-14 lead at the break at the Las Vegas Bowl.

The Broncos opened a three-and-out to open the game, then rolled down the field, going 67 yards in 13 plays and concluding with a nifty 1-yard Ryan Wolpin run.

Boise State forced another three-and-out on Oregon’s next possession and again moved into scoring territory when the Ducks scored their best play of the game, as cornerback Arrion Springs baited Boise State quarterback Brett Rypien into throwing an end zone interception.

It didn’t matter, though, because Oregon running back Tony Brooks-James was forced into a fumble by the Broncos’ Leighton Vander Esch, and Rypien erased his mistake with a 26-yard scoring strike to Cedrick Wilson

The first quarter closed with another minus-territory fumble, as this time Hebert lost the ball as he was being sacked at his own 21 but Boise State could not capitalize when Haden Hoggarth missed a 42-yard field goal.

After another Oregon punt, Hoggarth pushed Boise’s lead to 17-0 by converting a 39-yard field goal at the 8:59 mark of the second quarter.

Hebert followed up his fumble with two consecutive interceptions, with the second pick being returned 53 yards for a touchdown by Kekaula Kaniho, pushing the lead to 24-0 with 5:11 left in the first half.

Boise State had a chance to close the half with a 31-0 lead, but instead let Oregon back in the game with two disastrous plays inside the final minute. First, a Statue of Liberty play backfired when Rypien’s exchange bounced off Alexander Mattison‘s face mask and Oregon’s Troy Dye picked it up and raced 86 yards for the Ducks’ first touchdown with 37 ticks left in the half. Then, after a 67-yard completion to Wilson, Rypien’s pass into the end zone was intercepted and returned for a 100-yard touchdown by Oregon’s Tyree Robinson with seven seconds left, giving Oregon 14 defensive points in a 30-second span.

And now both teams reconcile with a 24-14 halftime score despite Oregon not running a single play in Boise State territory. The Broncos hold a 295-77 edge in total yardage, a 17-4 advantage in first downs and forced four Oregon turnovers.

Notre Dame will be without second-leading receiver for Citrus Bowl

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When Notre Dame’s offense takes the field this postseason, its receiving corps will be down an important contributor.

Brian Kelly confirmed Saturday afternoon that Chase Claypool will not play in the New Year’s Day Citrus Bowl matchup with LSU because of an injury to his right shoulder.  The wide receiver suffered the injury during practice this past Tuesday.

Next Tuesday, Claypool will undergo surgery to repair the damage.

A true sophomore, Claypool is currently second on the Fighting Irish in receptions (29) and receiving yards (402).  He also has a pair of touchdown catches.

Equanimeous Brown leads the team in both catches with 31 and yards with 468.

Troy makes Big Easy work of North Texas in New Orleans Bowl

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Troy jumped out to a big lead early, watched it dwindle to two points by halftime, then jumped out to another large lead to begin the second half and held onto it this time, exploding for a 50-30 win over North Texas in the R+L Carriers New Orleans Bowl.

After watching a potential 29-7 lead in the second quarter turn into a 22-20 lead with North Texas getting the ball to open the second half, Troy intercepted North Texas quarterback Mason Fine at the Mean Green 27, which Troy quarterback Brandon Silvers capitalized on by hitting Damion Willis for a 24-yard fade and then scored one play later on a 1-yard keeper, giving Troy a 29-20 lead at the 13:33 mark of the third quarter.

The Trojans forced a three-and-out on UNT’s next drive, then moved 92 yards in just five plays, scoring on a 59-yard strike from Silvers to Tevaris McCormick. North Texas attempted to climb back in the game with a 13-play march, but Fine was sacked on a 3rd-and-3 play from the Troy 6-yard line and Mean Green head coach Seth Littrell elected for a 24-yard Trevor Moore field goal rather than a do-or-die fourth-down conversion, pulling the score to 36-23 at the 4:26 mark of the third quarter.

North Texas forced a three-and-out and accepted the ball at its own 33 with a chance to climb back in the game, but Tyler Murray effectively ended it by sacking Fine and forcing his third turnover inside UNT territory. The Trojans hopped on the ball at the Mean Green 13 and, after a penalty, scored on a 20-yard strike from Silvers (24-of-31 for 306 yards) to John Johnson, putting the game out of reach at 43-23 with 2:02 left in the third quarter.

The dagger came when North Texas coughed up its fourth minus-territory turnover of the game, a Michael Lawrence fumble at the UNT 47, and Silvers hit Willis for his fourth passing touchdown of the game and fifth total score, a 10-yard strike with 4:07 left in the game.

Fine completed the scoring with a 17-yard cosmetic touchdown pass to Turner Smiley with 28 seconds left. The Conference USA Offensive Player of the Year, Fine completed 30-of-54 passes for 303 yards with three touchdowns while getting sacked six times and turning the ball over four times. Playing without leading rusher Jeffrey Wilson, North Texas mustered only 50 yards on running plays. Overall, Troy won the turnover battle 5-2 and out-gained the Mean Green 437-295.

The win allows Troy to conclude its best season since joining the Sun Belt in 2004. The Trojans claimed their first SBC crown since 2009, won their fourth bowl game ever and registered their first 11-win season since doing so as an FCS member in 1999. North Texas (9-5) dropped to 1-4 in its five New Orleans Bowl appearances, slunk to 2-7 all-time in bowl games, missed a shot at its first 10-win season since 1947 and fell to 2-9 all-time against Troy.

Troy accepted the ball to open the game and promptly rolled 80 yards in nine plays, capped by a 1-yard Josh Anderson scoring run. The Trojans immediately pushed the lead to two scores when North Texas quarterback Fine was sacked and fumbled at his own 14, setting up Anderson’s second touchdown run of the first half of the first quarter. Silvers hit Johnson for a 2-point conversion to stake the Trojans to a 15-0 lead at the 9:21 mark of the opening frame.

The Mean Green went three-and-out on their next possession but, facing the prospect of getting buried for the game in just the first quarter, the North Texas defense rose up when Joshua Wheeler sacked Silvers on third down at the Troy 39. The UNT offense awoke with an 11-play, 75-yard drive culminating in a 12-yard pass from Fine to Rico Bussey, Jr.

Anderson immediately responded with a 55-yard run on the final play of the first quarter, and Silvers completed the drive four plays later with a 7-yard strike to Willis at the 14:24 mark of the second quarter. North Texas attempted to return service with another touchdown, but Fine under-threw a wide open Bussey on 3rd-and-2 from the Troy 31 and his fourth down pass to Michael Lawrence was dropped.

Troy threatened to push its lead to three touchdowns on its next drive, moving to the North Texas 22, when disaster struck — a snap went over Silvers’s head and was scooped up by the Mean Green’s Colton McDonald, who returned the loose pigskin 56 yards for a touchdown. Fine’s 2-point conversion rush failed, but North Texas was still within 22-13 with 5:49 left in the first half.

North Texas had a golden opportunity to pull within one score of the Trojans when Kishawn McClain intercepted Silvers at the UNT 46 on Troy’s first play of the ensuing possession, but the Mean Green were forced to punt after just one first down.

But North Texas forced its third straight stop, this drive ended by another Wheeler sack, and Fine capitalized with a 13-yard touchdown pass to Lawrence with 49 seconds left before the break to pull the Mean Green within two.

Ex-Minnesota QB Demry Croft appears headed to FCS school

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A little less than three weeks after leaving Minnesota, Demry Croft appears to have found a new college football home.

In a tweet posted to his personal Twitter account Saturday afternoon, Croft seemed to indicate that he has decided to transfer to Tennessee State to continue his playing career.  As TSU plays at the FCS level, Croft will be eligible to play immediately in 2018.

Including next season, he has two years of eligibility remaining.

This season, Croft, who started the last six games of 2017,  completed 42 percent of his 122 passes for 674 yards, four touchdowns and seven interceptions. His 87.6 pass efficiency rating is not amongst the top 126 quarterbacks in the country.  Perhaps the most noteworthy moment of his Gophers career was posting a negative quarterback rating in a mid-November loss to Northwestern two weeks before he decided to transfer.

Conversely, though, he was good with his feet as his 309 yards rushing and four rushing touchdowns were fourth and third on the team, respectively.